“Carpamus dulcia, nostrum est
quod uiuis, cinis et manes et fabula fies.”

May we pluck sweet things, for after death we will be but ashes and a story.

-Persius 5.151-2


Henceforth, I think it should be called drool-ce de leche.

I mean, really.

Soft, smooth caramel, rich with milk and always with an extra pinch of salt.
Could there be anything better?  Drizzle it on ice cream, put it into chocolates, sandwich it with cookies, fill cakes with it, stir it into coffee, eat it with a spoon… ahem.


Other than eating it from a spoon, these cookie bars are the best use for dulce de leche I have encountered.

A thick layer of brown butter shortbread, redolent of vanilla is bathed in salty-sweet dulce de leche, then topped with more brown butter shortbread crumbs.

7 ingredients.  One bowl.  By far the best bar cookies on this blog.

My favorite parts were the caramelized, crunchy edges, which I maximized by making these bars in a rectangular tart pan.  Seriously addictive.  I love desserts with more than one texture.
Between the crunchy edges lie bites of super soft caramel sandwiched with crumbly shortbread.  Transcendent.

Best eaten with strong coffee or tea.  With friends.  It’s the only way to ensure you won’t eat the whole pan.


The dulce de leche I used in these bars was my first attempt at making it on the stove top, with a shortened simmering time and no water bath.
I added about a 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a few hefty pinches of salt to a can of sweetened condensed milk, and cooked it in a heavy pan until it caramelized.  However, it hardened into (delicious) caramels, so I rewarmed it with 6 tablespoons of butter and another pinch of salt.  The dulce de leche didn’t want to absorb the butter, even when it was warm and pliable, so I added 2 tablespoons of skim milk and blended it with my immersion blender.

What resulted was the creamiest, smoothest dulce de leche I’ve ever tasted in my life.
It was thick and spreadable, like  La Salamandra (no joke) and was much richer than dulce de leche made with just sweetened condensed milk.  It also took a tiny fraction of the time (somewhere around 30 minutes, versus 2 hours in the oven).

Since it was the result of dumping a bunch of unmeasured things into a sauce pot, I can’t give you a solid recipe.
Yet.  It is in the works.  I promise.

But! These bars are way too important not to share.  Use some other recipe for dulce de leche, or even store-bought.(Do go for La Salamandra-type quality rather than Nestle, though…)

Here are some options:
the best way to make dulce de leche from a can (this is what I usually do)
completely homemade dulce de leche (omg.)
La Salamandra

See?  There are no excuses for not trying these cookies.


Brown Butter Dulce de Leche Crumb Bars
makes 1 13 3/4x 4 1/2 inch tart pan; double for a 9×9 or 8×8 pan

1 cup dulce de leche
16 tablespoons (1 cup) butter
2 scant teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 13 3/4 x 4 1/2 inch tart pan.
Place your butter in a heavy sauce pan and cook until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Scrape the brown bits and the butter into a large bowl; add the salt and sugar and whisk until fully combined, about 2 minutes.
Quickly whisk in the egg to prevent scrambling, then stir in the vanilla extract.
Dump the flour on top and stir with a large spoon until the dough comes together.
The dough will be cohesive, but you should be able to crumble very easily.
Press half of the dough into the bottom of your tart pan, firmly pressing to make an even layer.
Spread the dulce de leche all over the shortbread layer, then crumble the rest of the dough on top, pressing the crumbs slightly into the caramel to ensure that they will stick.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crumbs are deep golden and the edges are caramelized.
Allow to cool, then slice and serve.



Let’s pretend to be sophisticated and make grown-up candies this holiday season.


Here’s something funny annoying that I know I’m going to end up doing this winter.

I’ve had many no-bake things that are gift-worthy (fudge, chocolate, candies, etc.) on my mind due to my current situation.
I’ve been trying to pretend that I actually want to be making candies instead of baking cakes and cookies.
In reality, I can’t wait to get back to an oven and stove.

However, and here’s the annoying part, I know that when I get home I’ll have so many no-bake ideas built up that I will continue to neglect my oven and rely instead on my refrigerator.

I know.  Eye roll.  Let’s hope that it won’t happen.


For now, I have these grown-up chocolate cups to share.

70% bittersweet chocolate cups filled with dulce de leche spiked with salt and chinese 5-spice.

Spicy, salty, warm, and rotund, these candies are an experience: the crisp shell, after a quick bite, melts and luxuriously coats your tongue with a myriad of flavors.

I love the kick of spice and burn from the pepper and the warmth from the cloves and star anise.
I was inspired by a small canister of Dean and Deluca 5-spice I picked up at the grocery store.

I don’t have a stove, so I used a store-bought can of dulce de leche, which is a great substitute iff you add a lot of salt.
Alternately, make your own dulce de leche.  Don’t forget the salt!  It is ultra-super-critical.

This flavor combination is coming back.  Soon.
Consider yourself warned.


Five Spice and Dulce de Leche Chocolates
makes about 24 candies

1.5 lbs 70% bittersweet chocolate
1 14-ounce can of dulce de leche (or make your own)
2 pinches kosher salt
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice

Set out 24 mini cupcake liners (the aluminum and paper ones) on a sheet pan.
Chop and melt your chocolate slowly to avoid burning; carefully paint a thin layer of chocolate on the bottom and sides of your cupcake liners.
Place in a fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes to set.
Stir the dulce de leche, salt, and spice together.
Place 2 teaspoons of dulce de leche in the chocolate cups.
Rap the sheet pan a few times to even out the dulce de leche layer.
Top off with melted chocolate until the edges lay flush with the chocolate; rap the sheet pan on a counter, hard, to even the chocolate layer out and remove any air bubbles.
Return to the fridge/freezer until the top layer of chocolate has set.
Remove from the wrappers, if desired, and enjoy!

Ex Uno Plures

Out of one, many.
I’ve posted about butter cookies a few times now, but somehow I have managed to not share my personal recipe.
Upon request (sorry that it took so long!) I made some cookies to share with y’all.
Here’s the thing: this dough is so forgiving, so easy to work with and to remember, that it’s a real shame it’s taken me so long to post about.
It’s incredibly versatile and can be shaped into many different cookies 
(though one must be aware of baking times… My little meltaways that you see here were over baked and accordingly crunchy, which is not the most unpleasant thing in the world, but certainly not what I was going for… sigh.)
All of the ingredients are probably in your pantry, and if you have an oven and some sort of mixer and can count to 3 forwards and back, you can make some lovely cookies for yourself.
This recipe is my go-to when I’m making decorated cookies; it’s a great roll-out dough, but it can also be shaped into thumbprints or really whatever you’d like.
Flour, butter, sugar, egg, sea salt, vanilla.
3 cups, 2 sticks, 1 cup, 1 egg, 2 teaspoons, 3 splashes.
The cookies with the bicycles are just roll-out cookies with a stamped marshmallow fondant round affixed to them with royal icing.  (If you’d like to try these, I really recommend working with store bought fondant first, just to get the feel and texture of it right.  It can be a bit hard to work with, and making your own only adds to the difficulty.)
The streusel-topped cookies were inspired by Dorie Greenspan’s “jammers,” cookies of which I had only heard word and for which I had not seen a recipe.  
I improvised, and was rewarded with lovely little cookies-dressed-in-tarts’-clothing.  
(By improvise, I mean I made small depressions in the center of each cookie, filled them with jam, and topped them with this brown butter crumb.)
The meltaways are simply small balls of dough tossed in powdered sugar before and after baking.
The little stars sandwich a firm bittersweet chocolate ganache (3 parts bittersweet chocolate to 2 parts cream, with a pinch of salt, microwaved until 2/3 of the way melted, then stirred together until shiny and smooth.)
The thumbprints house a dollop of slow-cooked, sweet and salty confiture de lait: dulce de leche’s sultry French cousin.
I’m in love with these little green bicycles. They’re so… springy!
They make me so happy. 
 La la la loveee!
1-2-3 Cookies
3 cups of flour
2 sticks of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons kosher or other coarse salt
3 splashes vanilla extract
Beat butter and sugar together until softened and pale yellow.  
Add in the egg and beat until super fluffy and shiny and not gritty, about 3 minutes.
Add in the salt and vanilla extract and beat for 20 seconds.
Add in all the flour and stir slowly, mixing until a homogeneous dough forms.  
It should not be overly sticky, nor should it be very crumbly.
You can now form it into small balls to make into thumbprints or meltaways, or roll it out to 1/4 inch thickness and cut it into shapes.
Refrigerate or, even better, freeze, for at least 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes, until golden and easily lifted from the sheet. Bake the thumbprints and meltaways for only 7 minutes. Better that they’re a little soft than super crunchy. Wah.
Decorate and/or fill as desired! (See above for some suggestions)

Brave New World

I find myself standing on a precipice, peering down, cookie in hand.
I find myself staring at a page the color of milk, devoid of text.
I find myself adrift on the oceanic interwebs, floating, but not peacefully. 

I have lots to write about.  My thoughts just won’t come out as crisply and concisely as they are in my head.

I’ll be honest.  I’m apprehensive.  Scared, even.
I don’t know what will become of my blog now that I’ve introduced these WISE posts.

How much more thought and time will have to go into a post?  (As of now, one post, comprised of just the writing, photoshopping, and formatting, let alone the preparation of the featured food, takes me roughly 1 1/2 hours.)  
I have tried, and will continue to try, to put meaningful thought and time into a couple of my blog posts.
I don’t want to say it’s true, but it is: now that my blog is becoming, on a once weekly basis, a school-tool, I am more nervous about writing.
Do I sound silly and shallow? (Always.)
Am I proper enough?
Can I use y’all?  And lol?  
What will become of my “diva” and “stupid” labels? 
Are they off limits?

I pray that you, my lovely, lovely, readers (or lookers… I know many come for the food porn photos only, [Editor’s note re: food porn: perhaps too callous?] and that is totally one hundred percent fine by me), will stick with me as I branch out into a new and distinctive field: creating blog posts that I know my teacher will see.

I shall have to test the waters; the waters I shall test.

In the meantime, let me talk about what I know best: dessert.
The inspiration for this dessert came from the idea of “Mexican hot chocolate,” which involves cocoa, cayenne, and cinnamon.  From there, my mind jumped instantly to cajeta, the traditional goat milk-version of dulce de leche, which is often spiced with a pinch of cinnamon.  
By then, I was spinning off on a Latin American tangent: I wanted to include corn (I had seen the wonderful corn cookies from Milk Bar recently), avocados, limes, bananas, etc.
With a firm flavor base in my head, I edited components out.
I knew I wanted to do a sweet “guacamole,” in the form of a lime-avocado purée.
I knew I wanted to use corn cookies.
I knew I wanted an ice cream.
I knew I wanted fluffy sponge cake and bittersweet ganache.
Here’s the result.

Brave New World:
1. Avocado lime purée
2. Bittersweet chocolate cayenne ganache
3. Brûléed banana brunoise
4. Cinnamon dulce de leche ice cream
5. Instant chocolate sponge cake
6. Crushed corn cookies
Instant Sponge Cake
1 egg white
1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons milk
2 paper cups (no plastic or wax)
Whip the egg white with 2 tablespoons of the sugar.  Mix all of the other ingredients together, then fold the egg white into the batter.  Poke slits in the bottom of your cups, and pour the batter in.  Place on a plate and microwave for 2 minutes on high (This varies because microwaves are so variable.  To check for doneness, touch the top of the cake with your finger.  It should not be sticky and should not collapse; it should be fully cooked.).
For use in the dessert, rip into small, organically shaped pieces.
Avocado-Lime Purée
1/2 a hass avocado
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Juice of 1 whole lime
Big pinch salt
Mash the avocado into a rough mush like guacamole.  Stir in the sugar, lime juice, and salt.  Purée the entire mixture, either with an immersion blender or food processor, until very smooth.  Be sure to add all of the juice of the lime; the acid is what keeps the avocado a beautiful green color.
Chocolate cayenne ganache
1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate
3 1/2 tablespoons cream
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Gently heat all ingredients together, either in a saucepan over low heat or in 20 second bursts in the microwave, until approximately 2/3 of the chocolate is melted.  Remove from heat, let sit for 2 minutes, then stir together until silky and shiny. 
For use in the dessert: heat up until smooth and free-flowing by nuking it for no more than 15 seconds.
Brûléed banana brunoise
1 banana, peeled.
Cut the banana in half right in the middle (across the skinny part of the banana, not the long way).  Trim off the sides of the banana so that they are plumb and cut 1/8 inch wide planks.  Take the planks and trim off the ends so that the edges are straight, and cut 1/8 inch wide matchsticks.  Take the matchsticks and cut them into 1/8 inch squares.  You will now have 1/8 inch cubes.  Place them on a plate, sprinkle liberally with sugar, and brûlée them with your torch, until the edges are dark and the sugar is caramelized.
Corn Cookies
straight from the Milk Bar cookbook
225 g butter (8 ounces)
300 g sugar
1 egg
265 g flour
73 g freeze-dried corn, ground into a powder in a food processor or blender
3 g baking powder (3/4 teaspoon)
1.5 g baking soda (1/4 teaspoon)
6 g kosher salt (1 1/2 teaspoons)
Cream your butter and sugar together for 2 full minutes on medium speed.  Scrape the sides, add the egg, and beat on medium high speed for 7 full minutes (set a timer).  Scrape the sides of the bowl, add in all of the dry ingredients, and mix just until combined, and no longer- about 45 seconds.  Portion out cookies with an ice cream scoop and flatten with your palm or a glass.  Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.  When you are ready to bake them off, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake for 18 minutes.
To use in the dessert, once the cookies are cool, smash one or two of them into powder, either in a bag with a rolling pin or a food processor.  Eat the others. Yum.
Cinnamon-Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
7 ounces (1/2 can) sweetened condensed milk plus 2 big pinches salt OR 7 ounces store bought dulce de leche (or cajeta!)
220 g milk
1 teaspoon gelatin+ 2 tablespoons cold water
160 g heavy cream
35 g corn syrup or 100 g glucose
65 g sugar
40 g milk powder
1 g kosher salt
Let cool completely.  
Bloom your gelatin in the cold water by sprinkling it lightly over the surface and allowing it to sit for 3-5 minutes.  
Blend the dulce de leche with the milk, over low heat, until completely homogenized (the heat helps the dulce de leche dissolve).  
Blend in the bloomed gelatin (use a hand blender).  
Remove from heat and blend in the rest of the ingredients until super smooth and homogeneous.  
Allow to cool completely; chill for up to 1 week.  
Once you are ready to make ice cream, spin the mixture in an ice cream maker, and put in an airtight container for up to a week.  
To quenelle, use boiling hot water to heat up your spoon and allow the ice cream to temper for about 2 minutes before scooping.
To assemble:
1. Place a dollop of avo-lime purée on the bottom of a plate, and, using the back of a spoon, swoop in an arc to create a schmear.  
2. Splatter chocolate ganache on the plate.
3. Place your best cubes of banana onto the plate; pile them up into an organic pyramid.
4. Place a quenelle of tempered ice cream in the center of the plate.
5. Place 3 pieces of sponge cake around the quenelle; do not make them symmetric.
6. Sprinkle corn cookies halfway onto the quenelle and around the plate.
Serve immediately.

Sand in the Vaseline

Last week, my bake sale was pushed back a day, due to a day off from school, thanks to Sandy.  Now, I’m not complaining, mais elle nous a posé un vrai lapin (She stood us up) where I live.  I hope anyone whom she didn’t is safe; my heart goes out to those without power or heat who are bracing for the next big storm.  
Life has been a little hectic for me lately, as you can probably tell by my lack of posts.
Being a senior in high school, the big deadline was November 1st for my college application.  It was down to the wire.  A real nail biter.  By the time I finished typing that last essay, it was 10 o’clock and the last trick or treaters had already dissipated into the night.  Hitting submit was a relief, for about two minutes.  Then the post-application panic set in.  
Now, a week later, I’ve submitted to a pretty much constant state of being on edge.  


 Also, it’s November
Which means I’ve been spending every waking minute some time planning Thanksgiving.  As in, the menu, the shopping lists, the timetable, the seating, etc.
Call me Liz Lemon. Please?
To help get in the holiday spirit, make these cinnamon cookies.  Cinnamon and dulce de leche are commonly mixed flavors in Latin America; many recipes for cajeta (goat’s milk dulce de leche) call for a pinch of cinnamon.  These butter cookies are super flaky, with cinnamon swirls, and pair perfectly with the sticky, salty filling.
Into comfort food?  Then make rice krispies instead.  Except make them better.  Start with the marshmallows. No corn syrup or refined sugars and no artificial flavoring allowed.  They are so much better.  Fluffy, springy, and soft, with a mellow maple undertone and little flecks of vanilla.  Add those to a little bit of browned butter, mound up a mountain of rice krispies, and press into a buttered pan.  Beautiful, and so much healthier than those little blue packages.  

Cinnamon Swirl Cookies with Dulce de Leche
adapted, in part, from smittenkitchen
for the (quick) dulce de leche:
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
a few healthy pinches of good-quality sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Pour the milk into an oven proof dish, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Put aluminum foil over the top, and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, checking and swirling often to avoid overflow.  Once toffee colored, pull from oven, add another pinch of salt, and let cool.  
for the cookies:
4 ounces (1 stick) butter 
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk
splash vanilla
big pinch of salt
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream the butter, sugar, and salt together until fluffy.  Add in the egg yolk and a splash of vanilla extract, and mix until combined.  Add in the flour all at once, and mix until a dough forms.  Weigh out the dough, divide in half, and add half of the dough back into the mixer bowl.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon in, and mix until combined.  Take the vanilla dough and knead it together with the cinnamon briefly, until they begin to swirl together.  Roll out the dough to a 1/8 inch thickness, and cut out cookies.  Gather scraps and reroll.  Bake cookies, spaced 1/2 inch apart, for 10-12 minutes, until they are starting to be golden at the edges and the centers are no longer puffy and soft.  Let cool, and fill with dulce de leche.
Brown Butter, Maple, and Vanilla Bean Rice Krispies (Snobby Krispies Treats)
for the marshmallows:
adapted from Gourmet, via smittenkitchen
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/4 teaspoons gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
1 cup unrefined sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
1/4 cup maple syrup
big pinch salt
1 egg white
scrapings of 1 vanilla bean
mixture of 1/2 confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 cornstarch (about 1/3 or 1/2 cup)
Oil a 9 x 12 pan.  Add 1/4 cup of the water to the bowl of a stand mixer, and sprinkle gelatin over top to soften.  In a heavy saucepan, cook the maple syrup, last 1/4 cup water, salt and sugar until a candy thermometer reads 240 degrees F.  Pour syrup over gelatin.  With the whisk attachment, beat mixture until thick and nearly tripled in volume.  Meanwhile, beat the egg white with the vanilla bean scrapings until stiff peaks form.  Once the gelatin mixture is done whipping up, beat in the egg white until just combined.  Scrape marshmallow into pan, dust the top with confectioners sugar mixture.  Chill until firm, at least 3 hours and up to one day.  Once marshmallow is firm, turn it out onto a cutting board and slice into pieces using a well oiled knife.
for the krispies:
3 tablespoons high-quality European butter (I used Kerrygold)
10 ounces marshmallows
8-9 cups rice krispies
Butter a 9 x 12 pan well.  In a heavy saucepan, brown butter.  Once browned and nutty, add in marshmallows, and stir well until they are all melted and homogeneous.  Add in the rice krispies and stir until all the krispies are coated, but not inundated with marshmallow (you may need to add more so that the bars aren’t too sticky).  Scrape into the pan and press down with a buttered spoon.  Let cool, then cut into bars.